Summer trials and introductions - Colour splash

Seed and plant suppliers are lining up their new offerings for the retail market next year with bright colours competing to catch retailers' attention, Jack Shamash reports.

Fuchsia 'Pink Elephant' - image: Thompson & Morgan
Fuchsia 'Pink Elephant' - image: Thompson & Morgan

Traditionally, this is the time of year when UK seed and plant suppliers are showing new products destined for the retail market. With the main 2012 season drawing to an end, retailers are looking carefully at next year's ranges of flowers and, as always, there is plenty on offer.

Growers are not reporting any very distinct trends in sales. The producers always have an eye on the housing market - most householders have relatively modest space for growing and this is reflected in the plants on offer. Muted tones, which at one time were in favour, have rather fallen by the wayside. Instead, there is more interest in flowers that are lively and cheerful - in some cases positively brash.

Pentland Plants

Pentland sells a wide range of plants - some directly by mail order, others to garden centres or to nurseries for growing on. There is a lot of interest in items that are unusual or startlingly different.

Pentland will be promoting its new ranges of "Trixis" - three plants grown together in one plug. Trixi Cherry Kiss, for example, has petunia, calibrachoa and verbena, while Trixi Riverside [2] has lobelia, verbena and bidens, bringing together a delicate combination of blue, yellow and white.

Sales administrator Ashleigh Anderson explains: "They look exceptionally good. They have been colour matched by experts. In each case, the three plants have been specially chosen so they grow well together and don't overwhelm each other."

He points out that gardeners usually only get "one shot" at putting things together to produce an attractive container. "These Trixis take out the guesswork. They are good for gardeners who lack confidence and are not sure how to combine plants to the best effect."

Pentland is also offering flowers suitable for the increasing number of people who have small gardens or no gardens at all. The double calibrachoa 'MiniFamous' range is seen as being particularly suitable for baskets and containers. The new 'Double Blue' has a strong blue colour, while the 'Double Pink Vein' is a delicate lilac colour with strong veins of purple running through the flowers.

To cash in on the interest in grow your own fruit and vegetables, Pentland has also produced some fine hanging basket strawberry plants. Toscana not only produces a good crop of small strawberries from June to October, but it also has attractive darkpink flowers with a yellow centre. The leaves are compact with an attractive dark foliage.

Also with an eye to the hanging basket/container market, is a new seed-raised range of Begonia 'Santa Cruz Sunset', which has long flowers, elongated leaves and can trail to around 90cm.

Moles Seeds

Moles Seeds has released a new Japanese-bred range of snapdragons. Antirrhinum 'Candy Showers' [3] come in deep purple, red, rose, orange and yellow. According to the company, they bloom readily under short days - so are ideal for spring or autumn sales. Flowers develop from the centre of the plant and along the stems, which flower seed manager Stuart Donders says makes them is good for hanging baskets and containers.

Dianthus 'Diana Pink' [4] is a new introduction. The chinensis-type flowers have grey green leaves and rose-pink double flowers. They bloom readily in most conditions.

Suttons Seeds

According to Suttons Seeds senior horticultural manager Tom Sharples, many of its new products are bright and breezy. "We still do all the other stuff, but it's the eye-catching material that really sells well," he says.

The seeds are available by mail order, although most varieties are also supplied through garden centres. One of the most dazzling is the new Dahlia 'Yankee Doodle Dandy', which is a bicolour mixture in a range of shades. With a 10cm flower and growing to 40cm high, the blooms combine corals and yellows, cherries and white. "It's a lot of fun and intended to be a crowd-pleaser," says Sharples.

There is also a new annual Phlox 'Moody Blue' [2] that grows to around 30cm in height. "There's always a big demand for blue flowers," says Sharples. The phlox produces a profusion of blue flowers, tinged with white. It is long-flowering and ideal for borders as well as tubs and baskets.

In addition, Suttons has introduced a new pot marigold, Calendula 'Pink Surprise'. "There are very few pink calendulas so that's the surprise,' Sharples explains. The plant has a tight flower formation and is good for bedding and also useful for cut flowers.

Another potential big seller is Nasturtium 'Castanets'. With a minimum of care, nasturtiums will grow in just about any space and are ideal for families who want to encourage their youngsters get into gardening. The double nasturtium has a compact habit, which flowers quickly and produces small, bright, spurless flowers. It is particularly suitable for containers, baskets and small borders.

Mr Fothergill's

Mr Fothergill's brand manager Katherine Watt says the firm is targeting children with its Little Gardener range. It was also selling a range of basic varieties - mainly vegetables - in its Get Growing range for people with little experience of gardening.

A new range of evening primrose 'Gold Dreams' is expected to do well because it is naturally compact, flowers abundantly and - most importantly for this year - copes well with large amounts of rain. Mr Fothergill's will also be offering a new range of Verbena 'Talman's Treasure', which is lavender and pale blue and extremely fragrant. The firm is also offering new ranges of scabious.

Thompson & Morgan

Thompson & Morgan (T&M) will be giving details of its complete new range in September. However, it has just released information about some of its more exciting offerings.

Big and bold is the order of the day. Fuchsia 'Pink Elephant' [6] is an absolute beast of a flower. With great, chunky blooms 15cm in width, it is intended to produce maximum impact. The cascading flowers are a bright sugar pink. It performs well in shade and is ideal for window boxes and hanging baskets.

Digitalis 'Illumination Raspberry' [7] is a foxglove with deep shades of orange and fuchsia. Product development manager Michael Perry describes it as one of T&M's most daring releases. "This is the latest colour in our award-winning 'Illumination' range," he says. "It will flower for six months and has true perennial performance, not to mention colours never seen before in foxgloves."

The flower is expected to be particularly popular because it is similar to the Digitalis 'Illumination Pink' that was named the RHS Chelsea Flower Show Plant of the Year 2012. The flower is also a true perennial - unlike many foxgloves that flower every two years.

Another extravagant bloom is Begonia 'Pink Splash' [8]. Perry describes this as "a multi-flowering begonia for hanging baskets, with incredible flower power for sunny or shady corners".

Ball Colegrave

According to marketing manager Stuart Lowen, a series of vibrantly coloured calibrachoa is one of the company's most important new releases for next season. Two new colours are being added to the Calibrachoa 'Cabaret' range, which is vigorous but has a controlled habit. 'Bright Red' [9] is described as a fire-engine red, while (Deep Yellow) [10] is described as a unique non-fading colour.

The Calibrachoa 'Can Can' range will also have six new colours, including 'Tangerine' and 'Sunrise'. They are promoted as suitable for baskets and containers and can be grown under cool conditions. The foliage remains dark even in alkaline soil.

Two superbly bright and well-coordinated petunias have also been added to the Ball & Colegrave range. Petunia 'Sophistica Blackberry' is a shimmering black colour with reddish-purple overtones, while Petunia 'Sophistica Lime Green' [11] is yellow with underlying shades of lime. Unlike other yellow petunias, this has a very solid colour with no veining or fading.

Ball &Colegrave also has a new range of impatiens. Impatiens 'New Guinea Divine Pink Pearl' has delicate pink colours. By contrast Impatiens 'New Guinea Orange' is saturated with colour. The range is highly tolerant of downy mildew and fast growing. The firm is also offering three ranges of designer mixes.

Lowen says: "Gardeners want something new and unusual. We are always looking for better seed emergence, great uniformity and better garden performance. Customers at our trials were very interested in things that were well coloured and just a bit different."

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